This time let’s do something different. Take a moment. Settle yourself. Settle your soul. Sit back in your seat. Breathe. Be conscious of your breathing. Breathe deeply. Breathe in the good, breathe out the bad. Breathe in to the count of 4. Hold for 4. Breathe out to the count of 4. Hold for 4. Repeat. Once you have felt your moment calm enough let’s move on. I’ll wait.
Ready? Great! I want you to think about your most favorite stories. It could be your favorite movie, or favorite book, or favorite television series. What makes it stand out to you? Who are the characters? What was the over all feeling you get from them? What does it make you feel to hold those stories in your mind? Do you imagine the hallowed halls of Hogwarts? Are you present on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise? Can you feel the harsh stuffy humidity of Dagobah? I chose from three of the most popular, though I’m sure there many many others out there that you can name and describe to me in detail. I love stories.
Stories are incredible. They take us to other worlds. Other versions of our own world. When our reality becomes too much, many of these stories are a welcome respite or escape to another reality, if even for a few minutes, hours, or days. In these stories we go along with the protagonist. We almost feel their emotions, superpowers, magic, or power filling our own often frail frames. In reality we are sitting or laying down, sometimes standing, but in our minds we are on the T.A.R.D.I.S. traveling through time and space with the Doctor. In our minds we can create entire worlds, realities, and characters were we are different. We are loved, we are accepted, and we are more than we ever thought we were in our own day-to-day lives.
Now, I know what I’m about to write is controversial. I ask that you bear with me. I’m not asking you to throw your beliefs out the window, I’m just asking you to follow my train of thought. What if the Gospels were not written as biographies, but instead as stories. Stories that may have used real events, real people, and real places to make a point. Now I’m not saying that they are untrue. What I am asking you to think about, is what are these stories telling us? What is the overall theme of the story? Does Mark make a different point than Luke? Does Matthew tell a completely different story than John? Why? For what purpose? I know this is something I’ve talked about before and asked before. But I want to use it as a starting point now.
When I was writing the Story of Esperanza, it helped me to see the person of Jesus as a real human being, with thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I stepped into the world that I was remaking to be better understood by today’s standards. When I stepped into the world I found new things, rediscovered old things, and struggled with other things. When I looked beyond the details of the story I began to understand what the writers of these books were trying to get at. It wasn’t about all of the details. The details were just there to add to the point they were trying to make. I began to see the writers of these stories, sitting there before their writing desks with the scrolls and writing utensils. They knew of the preacher man who people believed to be the messiah. His message was one that was so different from the others around his time. Even his teacher John the Baptizer, I’m assuming that he was his teacher due to hints in the texts, knew this Jesus guy was different and that this message he carried was one that changed everything. It did change everything.
Have you ever taken a step back and look how the world changed due to this man? I couldn’t figure out how to re-write 2000 years of history because this Jesus guy, a lone preacher man, from no-where Israel changed the course of history so dramatically. I had to include him in my new story, because the world would look completely different without him. I mean really look at it. The rise of monotheism can be attributed to this man. The shift in politics and the state of the Roman Empire can be attributed to this man. The spread of western Europeans across the globe can be attributed to this man. A lot of horrible atrocities were committed in his name. All of this can be attributed to this Jesus guy from the middle east. I would say that it is fair to argue that this one man had more of an impact on the course of human history than any other. I say fair to argue, I don’t know if it is completely accurate or not.
Each of these story tellers had a different story to tell. For Matthew it was to show that Jesus was the promised Messiah with an emphasis on his divine nature. For Mark, which was probably the first to be written, it was to show that he was the secret messiah, and a man of action. For Luke, it was to show the fulfillment of Jewish Scripture to those who were outside, gentiles, coming into this new faith, this was probably due to the arguments the early church had regarding gentiles becoming Jews first before becoming Christian. Then you have John, this one story at the end that was written much later than the other three to show that Jesus was the son of God. Each of these stories has a different approach. Each of these stories have different details and stories, they place things in different orders and don’t exactly agree on how things happened. In fact, there is no birth narrative in either Mark or John, because that wasn’t important to their stories. Luke and Matthew needed genealogies to show that Jesus was related to the most revered Jews and to all mankind. These are just little pieces of the larger whole of their stories and purposes.
When you sit down to read, watch, or listen to one of your favorite stories; does it matter if all of it happened exactly the way that it did in the past? For those stories, the vast majority are fiction. So the details don’t matter as much. Well, aside from when a book is adapted to a movie, then it matters to some. This is the major theme of some of my favorite films and stories, “Second hand Lions”, “Big Fish”, “The Life of Pi”, and many more have this theme of it doesn’t matter if it really happened or not. What matters is the story and what you take away from it. I love these stories, because sometimes the stories with the embellished bits are more entertaining and can teach more than the ones that are more documented history. Now, I’m not getting into the whole did it happen or not piece, we’ve already gone there before. What I want you to think about is the story as a whole. What do you take away from it? What is the major theme of the story? Why does the story make you feel the way it does?
Story is essential to everything in life. You are creating your own story from day-to-day. The funny thing is most of us see ourselves as supporting characters in our own story, but that’s not true. It’s our story. We are a part of many other stories, but this story is ours. That was one of the major messages and themes that ran across all 4 gospel stories. It was about telling a good story with your life, helping others to tell a good story with theirs as well. It was about love, and not worrying about the little details about that love, but just love. These were the things that made this Jesus guy great in my opinion. It was his message. One of love, acceptance, kindness, and grace all with no strings attached. Not a single agenda to it, just wanting us to live our lives to the fullest.
So here is what I invite you to do. I want you to try to forget everything you know about the story of Jesus. I know that’s almost impossible. But try. Get a good translation of the Bible. I would recommend one without verse numbers and chapter numbers. Maybe the Message, though I’m not a big fan of his translation work. I would recommend the NASB the NRSV or the ESV as they have all been peer-reviewed and translated directly from the sources none of this KJV business seeping in. I want you to read the stories again, with fresh eyes. Don’t just take pieces, do it from beginning to end. What did you learn? What stood out to you? What are the major themes? I hope that in that journey you can find something that I keep trying to tell you, that you are not alone, and you matter. You are not alone! You Matter!